Battle! Hip Hop in Armor at the Met

From Dancing in Museums: A Decade of Movement

In her 2018 essay “Black Box, White Cube, Gray Zone,” Claire Bishop notes that the museum’s interest in dance “has focused on choreography belonging only to certain traditions, above all Merce Cunningham and Judson Dance Theater.” [footnote Bishop, “Black Box, White Cube, Gray Zone,” 28.] Outside of the strictly contemporary art world, however, this is less often the case. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for instance, has in recent years presented an array of styles through its MetLiveArts program, including the classical Indian dance of Nrityagram (an ensemble based outside of Bangalore, India); the comedic aerobics of Monica Bill Barnes (whose Museum Workout, an exercise-class-meets-museum-tour, was a sold-out hit); and, as shown in this video, the hip-hop battles of It’s Showtime NYC, a group founded to support the professional development of street dancers.

This video captures a moment from “Battle! Hip Hop in Armor,” a collaboration with the Met’s Arms and Armor Department, in which dancers faced off in replica medieval combat gear: attire meant to move, not sit on static display. The project began with open rehearsals in August 2018 and extended through June 2019 as part of the Met’s free Friday night programming. While it could be seen as an audience-luring gimmick, it also brought a new kind of exposure to one of the city’s most vibrant art forms.

December 5, 2019

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Curated by

Siobhan Burke